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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Shopping at Wal-Mart

When I left Southern California I knew I would miss having stores right down the street.

It wasn't always like that in the rural area where we used to live, but along with the march of suburbia and the tickytacky houses all looking the same sprouting on the hillsides up and down our canyon, came grocery stores five minutes down the road, Trader Joe's ten minutes away, and the Whole Foods culinary museum down the freeway in Orange County just forty minutes away. Now, a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods visit is 100 miles away, so we don't get there too often.

The big deal here is Super Wal-Mart. The closest town to us has a couple smaller grocery stores with a perpetual rotten meat odor, a modest organic and natural foods shop, and Super Wal-Mart. It's the only game in town if you are married to someone who eats Campbell's soup for lunch every single day and wants saltine crackers in the red box only.

To be kind and fair, Wal-Mart has changed somewhat since its earlier days and its offerings are adapted to the people shopping there. This town has several colleges, so I wonder if the organic canned goods, world foods, and a larger selection of produce may be to satisfy the student and teacher demographic. The larger group, though, are those who live in town and the local villages. It's a place to buy the family cheap, plentiful food. Besides, where else can you can snack on paper cups loaded with greasy little chunks of breaded chicken while shopping and pick up a little gossip all at the same time?

At Super Wal-Mart I have learned to check stuff before I take it home. Who would think to examine a jar of pickles to ensure that it hasn't been opened and a few pickles taken out? Who the hell makes sandwiches in Wal-Mart? I still wonder what happened to half the Better Than Bouillon chicken goo I found missing when I opened it to add a little pizazz to the soup I was making.  And why were two felt floor protectors, the ones that go on chair legs, snaked out of the pack and closed, oh, so cleverly? In other words,  I have learned to check everything.

It's interesting to shop at Wal-Mart because of the diversity of shoppers. An old, gray haired man with a ponytail shuffles down the aisles, wearing a beret and a Che t-shirt. He gives me a wink as our carts pass.  As I push my overloaded cart, a middle aged mom with a swirly tattoo on her shoulder saying "La Squeaky" says to me, "I hope someone's going to help you put all that away when you get home!" I tell her I have someone in mind, since he's the one who put 20 cans of Campbell's Chicken Barley Mushroom soup in there and disappeared to read magazines.

People shake each others' hands, asking, "How are you?" It's usually friendly at Wal-Mart, and shopping is a chance to see everyone and find out how they're doing.  Once two groups of women began shouting at each other, though, waving their arms, mad about something that happened a few days ago at a party. I decided not to go down that aisle.

The employees are friendly; some look like they are may have had crazy lives in an earlier time. There's a guy whose job is mainly in the ladies' department, hanging up clothing. People who buy clothes at Wal-Mart must try on a lot of stuff because he always has mounntains of stuff to hang. Three tattooed teardrops drip from the corner of one eye. I can never get this right: did he kill someone in prison, lose some loved ones? Or was it the number of years he was locked up? It just doesn't seem polite to ask, and he smiles and tells me to have a nice day. I hear him answer the phone, "Ladies' department, how may I help you?"

When I need help finding something automotive, a  young fellow says, "Let me show you where that is," and leads me to the correct aisle. Tattooed on the back of his neck it says, "Fuck this shit." I thank him. "My pleasure!" he answers.

It usually takes a while to check out because everyone knows everyone else. Even the Mennonite lady in her neat little cap has people stopping by her check stand to ask, "Hello, how are you?" People are not in a hurry here. A checker will pick up your item, examine it, and say, "I was wondering if this is good. How do you like it?"  She scans and bags slowly.  I notice a cross tattoo in the web between her thumb and index finger. Was she a cholita in her younger life? Is she a devout Christian or Catholic? Or is it a combination? Nonetheless, she is a good employee who is pleasant to the customers. I have learned that waiting in long lines at Super Wal-Mart is not as bad as a tornado in Joplin.

Adjusting to a different culture is a challenge at times and it's good to have an open mind. We are all different and what's weird in your old locale may be the norm in your new one.

Margaret Mead said it well: "Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ranch Update-Dome and Cattle

I missed my newly planted Growing Dome garden during our two week trip for MBB's graduation from Iowa's Writers' Workshop. That said, I didn't visit the dome immediately when we returned. Why? Potential disappointment might be the reason. In the past, I've returned after extended road trips to gardens overrun with squirrels, fire ants, dying plants, and fully mature tomato plants with no tomatoes.

So I busied myself, carrying our belongings into the house, drinking a glass of wine. You know, important stuff. Finally Tom said, "Have you been in the dome, yet?" I set my wine glass down and went for a visit.

The plants really took off while I was gone. Ernest came every couple of days to water, since I have no autodrip system just yet.

Broccoli, yellow bell peppers, radishes, marigolds and tomato plants look like they've been taking steroids! All six tomato plants have tomatoes; little broccolis are emerging. On the other side of the dome, green beans and cukes are blossoming and we will have some cilantro on our "mystery meat" burritos tonight. 

(An aside- Mystery meat? Yeah! I thought it was some regular beef flank steak, but upon thawing it smells like deer meat. But I thought we had eaten it all, so is it elk that Ernest left there? No matter, I put it in the crock pot with a jar of green salsa. I'll let you know how it works out.)

Flowers are taking up veggie space, but make the place quite like a conservatory, don't you think?

The Angus Boys are chillin'. Plants, trees and grasses are greening up a little, but we are experiencing a severe drought. Grass is growing slowly, but these guys seem satisfied. With only 6 steers and 100 acres, there's enough to go around.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend, peeps. Remember your departed loved ones and raise a glass to toast their memory.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ro-Tel's Famous Queso Dip

People in the know just call it Queso, pronounced KAY-so, preferably with a Texas twang.

According to MBB, an accomplished Queso Dip Maker, when she brings Queso to a potluck, it's gone almost immediately. She says it's not unusual to see disappointed people swipe their fingers around the crock pot's interior to gather up just a wee bit more.

Last week we went to a get together in Iowa City and brought our contribution. "Is it queso?" asked a literary type, hope like a thing with feathers in his voice. "Sorry, it's potato salad." I swear I saw something fly away.

Ro-Tel's Famous Queso

You'll need one 10 oz can of Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chiles. This comes in different levels of heat. I chose the mild one because we know you have a delicate constitution.

1- 16 oz package of Velveeta-Cut this into cubes.

Then all you do is this:

  1. Combine undrained tomatoes and cheese in medium saucepan.
  2. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until cheese is completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring frequently.
  3. Serve warm as a dip with tortilla chips or crackers. I also like to dip cut up celery and carrot sticks in this queso as well. I don't feel quite so evil that way.
MBB has some friends who add other ingredients to their queso, like stirring in some sour cream or adding browned ground beef which makes it almost a meal. 

You can keep it warm in a crock pot, but usually the Queso is all gone before it cools.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How Did We Find the Nickel and Dime Ranch?

 When we began thinking about leaving Southern California after retiring from teaching, we made lists of geographic areas we liked. After that, I hopped on the internet and did some research, looking at statistics for crime, seasonal temperatures, distance to the airport, population, tax rates, nearest hospital, whether there was a college nearby (for culture and community attitudes), and more, but I've thankfully forgotten what those other items were and that's just fine.

Tom made charts and I filled in the data so we could compare everything. A few didn't make the cut because they were too far away from cities, or air transportation, or the hospital was hundreds of miles away. Some places had dicey reputations, like a county on the other side of the mountains known for its multi-generational heroin addiction. An area south had weather like inland Southern California, so we scratched that. Escaping hellish temperatures was one reason for relocating, so over 100 degree summer days were not part of the plan. We read about distrust for outsiders in some Northern New Mexico villages, but that was hard to research, so I looked for comment boards, read newspapers online, and figured we would assess the temperature of certain places if they seemed interesting enough to make the final cut.

Then we took a road trip, dismissed the La Veta/Walsenburg, Colorado area as too far away from stuff in general. A bout of food poisoning from one of the few restaurants open during the winter cemented our decision to opt out of rural Southern Colorado. It's beautiful, but just for visits.

Northern New Mexico, from Taos, east, and south to Santa Fe, was somewhere we had camped and visited a number of times during summer vacations.  This time we looked at the area as a potential home and it made the short list. Not too far from the airport, large acreages, few people, with little potential for population growth at least in the near future.  We wanted a rural community that would stay that way for a while. We didn't look for specific homes, yet, but we had narrowed the search.

The internet is an awesome tool, so I began real estate searches in the Santa Fe, Pecos, Las Vegas, Taos, and Mora County areas. We wanted acreage, at least 20 acres, and didn't want to build our own home. We had done that already with the do it yourself gigantic renovation/remodel on the old stone Alberhill house 30 years ago.

We've always loved Santa Fe, but it was pricey. We might get 1 acre and a house for what we could afford. Places farther away were a better deal, so I looked in San Miguel and Mora Counties, in Springer, Cimarron, and Ocate. With a list of possibles, we met a realtor in Mora County and she led us around. She saved the best for last, smart lady, an 80 acre ranch with a 10 year old log home only used for vacations. We ended up getting 100 acres and the house, and that's all she wrote. Oh, wait! I'm writing more! I haven't told you about some of the challenges and surprises we have found in the past year. I guess that's for another day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday-Our Lady of Guadalupe Quilt

 We got back from our road trip on Monday and the unpacking continues. Many of you who are my Facebook friends will recognize this quilt and say, "Geez! Bridget's getting lazy! I've seen this quilt a million times." So I apologize to you and promise to have some new stuff next time we talk quilts.

A couple years ago my sis-in-law, Pattie, and I attended an Empty Spools seminar taught by quiltmakers Freddy Moran and Gwen Marston.  A five day seminar held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds near Pacific Grove, California, it was an intensely creative combination of summer camp and sweatshop and a watershed moment for my journey as a quilt maker.

Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran in Freddy's studio

Gwen Marston introduced her liberated quiltmaking techniques twenty years ago. She is the design half of the Collaborative Quilting team. I love her Liberated Quiltmaking book.

Freddy Moran uses color fearlessly, considers red a neutral, and her book Freddy's House introduced her color sensibility to the quilting world.

Together they challenged my classmates and me to look at old quilts, learn from them, and make our own using no patterns and no set plans.

Here's my Lady of Guadalupe quilt, made using collaborative quilting techniques I learned from Gwen and Freddy.

Gwen taught me how to make liberated stars.

Freddy taught me how to make houses for my angels and skeleton buddies.

And they taught me to be bold with both design and color.

In September Pattie and I will be taking a trip to Gwen's Beaver Island Quilt Retreat where we will learn about using solids and making little quilts.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Buddy Holly's Last Gig-The Surf Ballroom

On our way back from Tom’s cousin’s, we headed over to Clear Lake, Iowa. Remember our trip a couple of months ago to Buddy Holly’s birthplace and favorite recording studio? Since Buddy Holly was one of Tom’s idols when he was young, and Tom being Historic Tom, we finished the Buddy Holly Tour at the Surf Ballroom.

The Surf was the last gig he played.  

Totally retro, the Surf Ballroom's dance floor is ringed with booths where teens could snack, drink, and chat while listening to their favorite entertainers.

 Tom’s cousin Donna and her husband Richard might have been in the audience listening to Richie Valens singing his hit “Donna.”   

They weren’t really there, of course, but they could have been, for they were both teenagers in neighboring Wisconsin in 1959.   

The Ballroom has been around since the 1940s and hosted many famous entertainers, including Lawrence Welk and even Xavier Cugat and Abbe Lane, Tom’s dad’s favorites in the 1950s. 

I don't think his father’s interest in Abbe Lane was purely musical

Attempting to escape from their awful, unheated tour bus and a tour route designed in Hell, they rented a small plane to take them to Fargo, ND, their next stop.      

 One of the band members flipped a coin with Ritchie Valens to see who would go in the small plane. He lost-----or won,-----and is still alive today. Urban legend has it that the coin-toss loser was Waylon Jennings, Holly’s bass player, but we learned here at the Surf Ballroom it was actually the fortunate Tommy Allsup. So on the plane were Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper.

 The path to the crash site is clearly marked by Holly’s “glasses.”

In the middle of a cornfield there are two memorials: one for the three stars who were killed and another for the pilot.

     Some visitors leave Buddy Holly-style glasses, and some leave liquor bottles.   

Miss Pearl was glad we were done with Buddy Holly and on our way back to New Mexico.     

Another adventure of Gray Highways with Tom Boyle.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shrooms-Wisconsin Farm Edition Recipe

It's morel mushroom season in Southern Wisconsin and everyone is out hunting for them. I knew a morel was a type of mushroom but I'd never seen one, so Tom and Cousin Richard were dispatched to the woods to rummage around in the dirt to find some. Cousin Donna hoped to have enough for a morel fiesta that evening for dinner.

The guys tooled around the farm on Richard's Ranger and found all of Richard's deer stands, but no morels. After much discussion, the local experts analyzed the weather and concluded the mushrooms needed more warmth to push through the earth and emerge. To make us feel envious, Ron and Suzie, cousins who live across the road, showed us some photos of a past morel haul in the bed of their pickup truck. The morels were gigantic, like they had been irradiated or injected with growth hormone.

Morels growing in the wild
Eleven year old Jace did a little searching on his own and brought two little guys to the house. Below are the two guys Jace found.

Now let's see if you're thinking what I was thinking: Don't morels look like conehead brains? 

Am I weird thinking this way? I don't think so!

Morels may look like extraterrestrial brains, but everyone who has eaten them rhapsodizes about how great they are. Donna says morels are best rolled in seasoned flour and fried. 

Here's a recipe I found at at a website called The Great Morel submitted by a guy named Jim, another rhapsodic morel fan.

King of the Plate (Morels with Flour)
I can't for the life of me figure why anyone would ruin a perfectly good morel mushroom with saltine crackers!!
You need:
Morels (bunches of 'em)
Butter/Margarine (3-4 tbsp's)
Frying Pan (non-stick is good...iron skillet is better)
Flour (1/2 cup or so)
Salt/Pepper to taste.
Melt butter/margarine in frying pan (don't overheat it!!!!!)
Coat Morels in flour (either in gallon ziplock bag that has flour in
it or using a plate covered in flour)--coat the cleaned morels well with
Sautee mushrooms (gently) in butter/margarine.
Salt and pepper to taste.
I have introduced a dozen people to the mighty morel with this tried and true recipe -- which lets the mushroom be king of the plate. All of them have become converts and a few reported a nearly religious experience! Serve the mushrooms with homemade bread (warm) with butter and you have a meal better than any that has ever been served to royalty.
There is no better use of a morel then when it is covered in flour and sauteed in butter and eaten. I wouldn't have them any other way!!!!

I like all the exclamation points. This guy loves his morels.

Maybe if we all had more morels the world would be a better place. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wisconsin Farm Edition

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.--John Lubbock

 When you are feeling stressed, just look at this photo and breathe.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Places In The Heart

It doesn't surprise me one bit that Tom has found secret and special places all over this relatively small 100 acre ranch. He's been exploring and naming his favorite locations since we landed here a little over a year ago and from one moment to the next he could be hanging out in any one of his favorite places.

Tom started with Hatchet Jack’s Rock, a huge boulder on the rim rock across the creek from our house.
Hatchet Jack, a character in the movie Jeremiah Johnson, is found frozen on the side of a mountain----just like Tom says he will be one day, Hawken rifle in his hand.

To the south of the Rock and further up the rim rock is Devil’s Den, a jumble of boulders and trees named after part of the Gettysburg Battlefield. For a closer look, click on the pic.

 Tom has walked the Gettysburg battlefield from end to end, the last time with Ms. Pearl, so it makes sense he would find (and name) a Civil War memorial boulder pile here at the ranch.    

Uncle Bill’s Nest is higher up the rim rock, named after our brother-in-law who patiently spent two days and used an array of optical instruments rivaling an observatory to find an eagle's nest up there.  It's the area where you can see the green grass.

 I don’t think Uncle Bill actually nested there, though.

The Enchanted Forest is my favorite place,  a woodland on the north side, across the creek.

  We took the Polaris over there last year to cut up two dead trees for firewood. To walk there, it's across Zack’s Bridge, which had been washed to one side. Tom and Zack put it back and Zack staked it down, permanently, we hope.

Near the bridge is what Tom calls Tree in the Trail after a children’s book by Holling C. Holling Tom used to read to our kids when they were little.

Zack's Bridge, Tree in the Trail, Enchanted Forest in the background
Of course, the trail to  the Forest he has dubbed The Santa Fe Trail, though it doesn’t go anywhere near Santa Fe.

We haven't even talked about Whiskey Rock, Reading Rock and Lecture Rock. We'll save them for another time.

What drives me mad are The Undisclosed Locations, complete with beach chairs, where Tom reads and observes our world. He carries snacks, books, and binoculars up there.

I'm on the dirt road, returning from town.  I feel his eyes, watching.  I hop out of the Tacoma to open the gate and he calls my phone. "Yes?" I ask. "Nothing," he says, "I just wanted you to know I'm in An Undisclosed Location." "Where is it?" I want to know. "Sorry," he says, officiously. "It's Undisclosed."

Someday I will catch him in one of Those Undisclosed Locations, most likely reading Tree in the Trail to Miss Pearl.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday-Machine Binding

A while back I showed you a quilt I liked but didn't love, so I decided to donate it to the Wild Turkey Federation for a scholarship raffle. What I didn't show you were the unbound edges because I strategically folded the quilt so you wouldn't know I hadn't finished it yet.

I searched the internet for instructions for an entire machine sewn binding. I found Pat Sloan's Machine Binding Tutorial which uses both still photos and video to explain the process. It was easy, looked neat and finished, perfect for kids' quilts and those that get a lot of washing, like that one the cat and dog lie on even though it's on my bed.

The main difference between a machine binding and a hand sewn one is the initial machine stitching is sewn to the back edge of the quilt instead of the front. Then the binding is brought forward and stitched using a machine blanket stitch, reversed. Pat does an excellent job explaining this, so I encourage you to check out her tutorial.

This is the front of the quilt. Click on the photo for a closer look.  I noticed that the binding got a little shrinky-dink after I washed it, but I like that crinkly look, so I'm okay with that.

Here's how the binding looks on the back. Click for a closer look.

It was machine quilted by Cotton Creations.

I have to admit that when the quilt was finally complete, I almost wanted to keep it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Heifers From Heifer International

When we bought our Angus steers we didn't know much about how to take care of them, but our neighbors have been happy to teach us. Donald and Anita, long time residents from the local village, sold us our Black Angus boys and introduced us to their livestock growers group, started through a grant from Heifer International. I am learning a lot not only about cattle at our meetings, but about every facet of living an agricultural life.

The per capita income in our county is a little over $19,000. People here have land that may been in the family for hundreds of years, but income producing jobs and businesses are far away, with people having to commute 50 miles one way to get to work.

For many people in the area, raising animals is their main cash crop. Heifer International offers grants to communities throughout the world. It is a non-profit organization whose goal is to help end world hunger and poverty through self-reliance & sustainability.

A couple years ago Donald received a gift of bred heifers from the group and is now on his second generation of cows. Since it's mama and baby season,  Donald has been busy hauling water and hay and keeping watch over his investment. The other day I drove by the mamas and babies and spotted this mom and her new little fellow.

C'mon, little guy! Up and at 'em!

Okay, good job! Now let's go meet the rest of the group.

Hello! Welcome to our world!

I'm still waiting. Any time now. Any time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mothers, Daughters, and Green Toenails

I have the teensiest strip of green nail polish at the tips of my big toes. It isn't a New Mexican pedicure or anything like that, but the remains of one I had way back last August.

My mom was in the last stages of lung cancer and I took a couple days off from being the caregiver. I was tired, grieving, and needed a distraction so sister-in-law Pattie suggested a pedicure place. The pedicurist laughed when I admired my shiny green toenails and joked, "There's a fungus among us." The next day we went to a Chinese leg and foot massage place where they pummeled and brutalized us and we obediently paid twenty dollars.

I haven't had a pedicure since that August experience, not because we are here in New Mexico and it's hard to just hop down to the local nail salon, but because the green on my toenails is a link to a time when my mom was still alive. Two weeks after that pedicure, she was dead. And I decided not to get a pedicure until the polish was gone.

There's about an eighth of an inch left, an excellent pedicure to have lasted so long, and the day after Mothers' Day I will finally snip away the last bit of green.

When I was born, I was separated from my mother with a snip of the umbilical cord and I cried. It's not exactly the same, but in a way I suppose clipping those thin crescents of green nail polish will be severing the connection between my mom living then and me living in the now. I will cry, realizing I am no longer defined as the daughter, but as a mother, whose daughter will someday take care of me when I am old.

When the end gets near, I will send her off for a pedicure.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sopapillas: Bread--or Dessert?

At many New Mexican restaurants the other question servers ask besides "Red or green?" is "Tortilla or sopapilla?" Sopapillas are a New Mexican regional fried bread used to mop up that puddle of green or red chile on your plate or drizzled with honey for a sweet ending to your meal. I've also had them covered in cinnamon sugar, tasting kind of like a doughnut. Sopapillas can also be stuffed with beans, meat, eggs, or a little bit of all those things as an entree.

They are fried pillows of dough, light, airy and bready. 

Charlie's Spic and Span Cafe and Bakery in Las Vegas offers the "sopa" (short for sopapilla) and what they call "Stuffys." For breakfast the sopapillas are stuffed with eggs and your choice of meat, red or green on top. Lunch offers sopas stuffed with beans and your choice of meat.

Ham and Egg Breakfast Stuffy
My good friend Shela grew up eating New Mexican sopapillas. During high school she worked  in a Mexican cafe where she learned how to make them. The cafe owner, Dee, said to knead until you are tired, then knead some more. This is not Dee's recipe, but one I found in New Mexico magazine's The Best From New Mexico Kitchens.


Sopaipillas are an incredibly light, puffy fry bread. To eat, poke or tear them open and spread with honey or honey butter. They must be eaten immediately while steaming hot! This dish is a delight for all ages.

Sopaipillas Recipe:

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lard* or vegetable shortening
1/2 cup lukewarm water
shortening or oil for frying
1. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. Work the lard and water in to make a soft dough. Cover and leave in refrigerator until chilled.
3. Roll out to 1/4-inch thickness on a floured surface, then cut into 3-inch squares or similar-sized triangles (about a 4 1/2-inch square, cut diagonally).
4. Deep fry a few at a time at 400F degrees until light golden brown, turning once.
5. Drain on paper towels.
6. Sprinkle with powder sugar or open and spread with honey.
*Using lard in the recipe, and frying with shortening rather than oil will make the sopaipillas lighter and is traditional.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday: A Cat and a Quilt

What is it about quilts and cats? It seems that no matter where I place a quilt, Miss Bonnie the Cat finds it and plunks herself right down.

Case in point- The Aunt Martha Quilt: My dad's aunt Martha passed away at a ripe old age and her nieces and nephews received inheritance checks, around $140 dollars each. I was one of the beneficiaries and knew instantly how I would use the money: to make a floral quilt since Aunt Martha was a talented painter of flowers. We have some china pieces with the most delicate flowers painted on them and I have always admired her steady hand and artistic vision. A zillion floral fabrics later, the Aunt Martha quilt was almost complete.

As soon as I sat down on the couch to sew on the binding, up hopped The Bon, and she would not budge for anything! Now the quilt is on the bed, and I can reasonably expect to see her sacked out upstairs in her field of flowers at almost any time of the day.

The quilt top was fun to make, using a center strip of yellow, adding random width strips to either side of the center on a square muslin base. I bought up all the florals I could find and went to town. Nothing was planned. I would just reach into the bag to pull out a strip and that's what I would sew. I laid out the blocks and sewed them together. You can click on the photo to get a closer view.

The borders were just as random. I added a yellow border strip to echo the strips on the top, then added a piano key border using leftover strips. From there I decided to add a wider braided border, a punchy green strip and then an all over flower print to finish. Totally random and totally fun!

The quilt's backing was constructed of large pieces of floral prints I had stashed away.  Altogether, I am happy with the Aunt Martha quilt. It's like I'm sleeping under a field of flowers....and a cat.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Growing Dome-Let's Peek Inside!

It's amazing: two days ago it was snowing like all get out and today most of that snow is gone, the sky is blue, and the weather is a warm 64 degrees. In Southern California, that would be sweater weather, but I was in my short sleeved shirt, thinking, "This is warm!"
It's all relative.

So, how about a quick visit to the dome? That's the greenhouse that sprouted just outside our yard a couple weeks ago...the one that looks like a spaceship has landed.

Just think: two days ago it looked like this. Today, though, this was our view from the long porch.

Just a quick step through the gate.

The dome has two solar panels at the top above the door. One is to power a pump and waterfall that isn't installed yet and the other one runs the fan attached to some air ducts. I'll explain that in a bit.

Inside are two raised beds that circle the perimeter of the dome. This was the part that was not fun. I had neglected to tell Tom that he would be making the raised beds inside. Whoops! All we had were some photos of other owners' interiors, but no plans or directions. This caused some consternation (I am being gentle here, kind of euphemistic).

So we got to work. When we build stuff together, Tom is the surgeon and I am the nurse. (No, I don't get to wear a sexy nurse outfit. Get your minds out of the gutter!!) He wears a carpenter's apron but forgets to put his tools in the pockets, so I am the one who finds his measuring tape, hammer, pencil, square name it and Tom has mislaid it. I am the nurse who hands him the tools. So for a week we have been putting together these garden beds. They are two feet high. Under the beds is hardware cloth to keep out the gophers with weed barrier cloth on top of that.

The bed is lined with metal sheeting on the insulated outside wall and the inner wall of the bed is lined with plastic. I think Tom did a good job building these beds without plans.

These undersoil air ducts are connected to the solar powered fan. The fan pulls air through these ducts to keep the soil warm in winter and cool in summer. It also keeps the dome cooler in the summer. Tomorrow we will bury these guys under the soil.

This is the ceiling air vent. It automatically opens and closes depending on the interior temperature. There are two more on the sides. The reflective sheeting increases the available light in the dome.

When the beds are planted and nicely growing, we will come back to visit again. I couldn't wait to use the dome, though, so last week I planted some Earthboxes with tomatoes and basil and put them in the dome. They like their new home. It was 21 degrees last night, but they didn't even care!